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for people who care about the West

Terrorized by coyotes, denied a school lunch, and a controversial superbowl ad

 

UTAH
If you're like us, you've occasionally fallen behind in paying your credit card or utility bills. And maybe you've had to face the consequences, perhaps nasty letters from a collection agency or a robo-caller with a vague accent demanding that you make an "arrangement." But the folks at Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City don't mess around: They send in the Hot Lunch Repo Woman, aka the school district's "child nutrition manager." According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the manager – whose name was not revealed – entered the school cafeteria during lunchtime, picked out 40 kids whose lunch tabs were overdue, took their hot lunches away and tossed them in the garbage (the lunches, not the kids, though the intent may have been similar). Apparently, the manager figured a little caloric deprivation would spur the kids, or rather their parents, to cough up some cash. To its credit, the school gave the juvenile delinquent debtors some milk and fruit to get through the day. School officials initially refused to apologize, but found some remorse after public outcry. The manager was put on administrative leave. No word on whether the lunch tabs were paid.

THE WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE
And in this edition's wildlife vs. humans news …

If you happen to be cruising the streets of Broomfield, Colo., a Denver suburb, don't be alarmed if you see residents shouting, rattling "noise makers" or waving their arms erratically. They are neither crazy nor on drugs; they're just acting like it, in the name of research. Broomfield has been terrorized in recent years by coyotes, which have been known to nip runners, bite kids and snack on pet cats or dogs. So local governments and wildlife agencies have been conducting the "Metro Area Coyote Behavior Study" to figure out how to deal with the tricky wild canines. They are now in the hazing phase of the study, and so have asked residents to haze like crazy to see if that discourages the coyotes.

Golden Gardens Park, right on the coast of Puget Sound in Ballard, Wash., a Seattle suburb, was once a paradise, reports the Seattle Times. Until the attack of the giant rodents, that is. First one, then another, then as many as a dozen of the bucked-tooth tree-eaters invaded, knocking down trees that were frequented by birds and building dams that caused a little stream to flood footbridges. Yes, it's that scourge of road crews everywhere, the pesky beaver. But though parks officials are trying to mitigate their impacts, they won't remove the industrious animals, which are natives, after all – Ballard High School even calls its teams the Beavers. Some park lovers aren't happy. "I'm not a beaver hater," Rick Burley told the Seattle Times. "But I don't understand why they're protected. They're like rats. They multiply pretty fast. Why can't they trap and relocate them, and save the birds?"

Relocation is too good for certain students at the University of Colorado in Boulder – or so the area's wild animals most likely believe. In Nov. 2011, three students were busted for busting up a raccoon with a machete and baseball bat. The following year, two students beat a pigeon with a broomstick. In the latest case, a 20-year-old beat a raccoon to death in November so he "could take its hide," reports the Daily Camera. In February, much to the dismay of animal-rights activists, the Boulder County District Attorney's Office dismissed felony animal cruelty charges. The student apparently had a license for killing "furbearers," making the beating legal, at least in the DA's eyes.

And in Perris, a piece of the Southern California urban sprawl between Los Angeles and San Diego, a homeless man survived a mountain lion attack. As of early February, the big cat was still on the loose.

THE AIRWAVES
While Seattle Seahawks fans prepared for a celebratory riot (a relatively subdued one, perhaps owing to legal marijuana), Denver Broncos folks choked on their Cheetos, and Bob Dylan lovers got all tangled up in blue over that Chrysler ad, a different Super Bowl ad was making the rounds, only not on TV. The ad, produced by the Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians – which couldn't afford a Super Bowl spot, even in the final quarter when everyone had switched over to Downton Abbey for some real drama – appeared on YouTube and got quite an audience. Called "Proud to Be," it starts out with a montage of images and a voiceover: "Proud, Forgotten, Indian, Navajo, Blackfoot. …" It finishes with: "Native Americans call themselves many things, The one thing they don't …" and then ends in silence, along with an image of a Washington Redskins helmet and the offensive mascot. As of Feb. 3, the ad had been viewed over 1 million times. To see it, go to changethemascot.org.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write betsym@hcn.org.